Wednesday, March 22, 2017
McPeek Taking Maiden Winners on the Road
Trainer Kenny McPeek has five maiden winners at the Oaklawn meeting and four are scheduled to run in 3-year-old stakes races this weekend.
He said Blueridge Traveler is headed for the $500,000 Spiral Stakes (G3) and Awesome Boss goes in the $100,000 Bourbonette Oaks (G3) Saturday at Turfway Park. Sunday at Sunland Park, McPeek is scheduled to send out Oxford Lane in the $800,000 Sunland Derby (G3) and Soft Cheese in the $250,000 Sunland Park Oaks.
A fifth McPeek trainee, Senior Investment, is scheduled to run in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (G2) April 1 at Fair Grounds. Senior Investment won a first-level allowance/optional claimer Feb. 18 at Oaklawn in his last start.
“I’ve got a really good base of horses right now,” McPeek said. “I do best when I do my own shopping and just got a really good foundation back together. In the last four or five years, I think that we were not hitting the marks that maybe we hit in the past. But we’ve got a great group of horses and a great staff.”
McPeek said he’s particularly proud of Soft Cheese, who won her March 2 career debut at 1 1/16 miles. Soft Cheese, a Kentucky-bred daughter of Quality Road, is co-owned by McPeek’s wife Sherri (Magdalena Racing), which also bred the filly in partnership.
“I trained Soft Cheese’s mother,” McPeek said. “I recommended the breeding. Foaled the mare, foaled her, Soft Cheese, at my farm. Lot of satisfaction to all that.”
Soft Cheese was born on 115-acre Magdalena Farm in central Kentucky. McPeek said he bought the property 12 years ago and development revealed a pre-Civil War family buried in a cemetery. Among the descendants of the farm’s original owners was a woman named “Magdalena,” who is buried on the property, McPeek said.
“So the farm, we didn’t have a name for the first year,” McPeek said. “Everybody just called it, ‘McPeek Farm.’ Then we found the gravestone, and it was appropriate, ‘Magdalena Farm.’ And that’s where Magdalena Racing comes from.”
The trainer has a home just north of Oaklawn in the historic Trivista neighborhood, but said Magdalena is his “base of operations.” McPeek said he lives on the property, adding his horses are broken there. Magdalena is also home to a small broodmare band, he said.
“We do all the accounting and office work out of there,” McPeek said. “It’s just a real good base of operations for everything.”
McPeek has seven winners this year at Oaklawn, highlighted by Kathballu in the $125,000 Spring Fever Stakes for older filly and mare sprinters March 4. She is scheduled to make her next start in the $150,000 Carousel Stakes April 8, McPeek said.
McPeek, 54, was born in Fort Chaffee, Ark., but considers himself a native Kentuckian after moving there shortly after his birth. His top horses include Florida Derby winner Harlan’s Holiday, Belmont Stakes winner Sarava and multiple Grade 1 winner Take Charge Lady.
McPeek has 1,531 victories and $70,502,774 in purse earnings in his North American career since starting his first horse in 1985, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization.
Arkansas Sport Hall of Fame Day at the Races
Each race on Friday’s nine-race card will be named in honor of members of the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and after the races, fans are invited to a “Meet the Stars Reception” at the Hot Springs Convention Center from 6:30 – 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 501-313-4158.
The Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame members scheduled to be at the races and at the reception are:
Race 1 – Kevin McReynolds
Race 2 – Mark Martin/Bill Davis
Race 3 – David Bazzel, Pat Bradley and Wally Hall
Race 4 – Fred Marshall
Race 5 – Frank Broyles
Race 6 – Chuck Dicus
Race 7 – Cliff Harris
Race 8 – Jerry Jones Family
Race 9 – Joe Klein
Back on Top
Seven-time Oaklawn training champion Steve Asmussen won two races Sunday to top the standings for the first time this season, the 41st day of the scheduled 57-day meeting. He won the fourth race with Senor Grits ($12.20) and eighth race with favored Chanteline ($6.40). Both winners were ridden by newcomer Luis Contreras.
Asmussen has 23 victories, one more than Robertino Diodoro, who had topped the standings solely since Feb. 5, the 16th day of racing. Diodoro had 13 victories through Feb. 5. Asmussen had four.
Asmussen normally surges during the final few weeks of the Oaklawn meeting because of his quality and quantity.
“Steve’s going to crush it,” said Brad Cox,” Oaklawn’s co-fifth-leading trainer this year with 15 victories. “What would be the odds on him to win it? One to five.”
Asmussen was Oaklawn’s leading trainer in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2016. He won 46 races last year and set a single-season record for purse earnings ($3,448,729).
Asmussen recorded his 500th career Oaklawn victory Jan. 16 and has 521 overall following Sunday’s double, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. The trainer, who won his first race at Oaklawn in 1996, was inducted into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame last August.
Asmussen also leads all trainers at the meet in purse earnings ($1,513,358).
King of the Hill
Jockey Channing Hill has 15 victories at the meeting, with 13 coming in races carrying a purse of at least $72,000.
“We’ve been very, very blessed,” said Hill’s agent, Scott Hare.
Hill, who has $919,236 in purse money on 104 mounts, has won two stakes – $150,000 Smarty Jones Jan. 16 aboard Uncontested for his father-in-law, trainer Wayne Catalano, and the $125,000 Spring Fever March 4 aboard Kathballu for trainer Kenny McPeek.
Hill and McPeek have teamed to win six races at the meeting, including three maiden special weights events ($72,000 purse) and a first-level allowance/optional claimer ($74,000).
Hill ranks eighth in victories and fifth in purse earnings at the meet.
Hare said he will represent Hill and David Flores at the Churchill Downs spring/summer meet that begins April 29. Flores is Fair Grounds’ eighth-leading rider this season with 37 victories.